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For my first day in Slovakia, Juraj decided we should visit a couple of caves.  We left shortly after breakfast, which included fresh vegetables, fruits, coffee, cheese, bread, and eggs.  It was then a two-hour drive east into the mountains.  The drive took us even longer because of construction we got stuck behind.  When we finally arrived, we paid for parking at the entrance and hiked a long, steep hike up to one hillside.  This was the entrance to the “Ice Cave”.

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DEMÄNOVSKÁ ICE CAVE
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Tours for the cave (Demänovská ľadová jaskyňa) leave every hour and tickets are sold at the cave within 15 minutes of the tour.  We managed to hike the hill just in time to buy tickets and go in with a large group.  The tour was led in Slovak, but Russians and Polish also accompanied us.  The cave started as cold, then we descended farther and farther and it got much colder.  Suddenly, we started seeing ice.  We dropped into one section and the entire room was full of thick ice.  They had to plow several feet out of the way in order to install a walking and railing.  The ice beside us came up to our waists.  We could see frozen rivers and waterfalls.  Eventually, the 45 minutes was up and we were led back up the 200 steps to the warm outside.

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Juraj and I went back down the hill and grabbed some food from a stand.  We then asked where to go for the next cave and followed the vendor’s instructions.  We walked for 30 minutes through the woods, crossing a creek several times.  The walk was long and only longer when we realized we had to climb yet another hill to find the cave and the tickets.  We walked quickly up the switchbacks, much steeper than the last one, and were passed by groups of children on a scavenger hunt.  Finally, we reached the top and were disappointed to find we had missed the tour by five minutes.  What else to do but have a beer?  The hour went by quickly and we were in the next cave in no time with our tickets and four other guests.

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DEMÄNOVSKÁ JASKYŇA SLOBODY
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This cave wasn’t as unique as the Ice Cave, but it is a “drip cave” and is still really interesting.  We yet again wound down several flights of stairs, going through large caverns to tight passageways.  There were pink and ruby stalactites and stalagmites through the majority of the cave.  There was also a flowing river.  In one section of this river, minerals were dripping to the floor to form what Juraj translated as “cave pearls”.  We then had another 141 steps back out of the cave and a very long walk back to the parking lot where our car was.

We went a different way home to completely avoid the construction.  I was very tired and now also very sore from hiking so much.  We got home and I finally met Juraj’s son, had some dinner, and wound down in the house for the night.